Don’t worry about graduating in four years

Nick Sestanovich
Nick Sestanovich

I guess this is as good a time as any to mention that this is my fifth year in college.

When I was younger, I had this preconception that I would graduate from college in four years. After spending three years in community college, it became clear to me that completing my major in just one year would have been impossible, so here I am.

But I’m hardly alone. About 38 percent of college students nationwide graduate with a bachelor’s degree in four years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. It’s even lower at Chico State, where 21 percent of students graduate in four years and 57 percent graduate in six years, said William Allen, the interim director of institutional research. It’s because of statistics like these that I find the term “four-year institution” rather misleading. Lots of people have their own reasons for not graduating in four years, whether it’s changing majors, transferring from another college or needing to retake a class.

Whatever the reason for taking longer to graduate, I know it can be a little heartbreaking when you realize you won’t be graduating as soon as you hoped. To people in this situation, I say: don’t fret. It’s going to be OK.

The reality is that college is going to be a different experience for everybody. Some may handle the heavy course loads with ease and others may struggle with trying to juggle five or six different classes. Some may easily understand the material, while others may take a little while to understand it. This is especially true for people like me who transferred from a community college after three years and need more time to catch up on coursework. When I started attending community college, I wasn’t sure which college I wanted to transfer to. I mostly spent that time taking general education courses and some journalism classes. Only one of those classes ended up transferring toward my major units at Chico State, so I spent my first year here trying to catch up.

It’s not like graduating in more than four years is completely without its benefits either. A few more years of education is a few more years of knowledge in the field one plans to work in. I know I can more easily retain something if I’m studying it over a longer period of time than just a short few months. Those extra years of learning lead to more experience one can put on a resume. Also, students may take their classes more seriously if they realize they’re attending school past their intended graduation date. Perhaps that would reflect positively on their academic record.

I hope people don’t misinterpret this as me telling students not to graduate in four years. That should still be a goal for those entering college. I just think that if they don’t graduate in four years, it’s not the end of the world. If you’re one of those students uncertain about your future in college, realize that you are on the path to graduating and it will happen someday. All that matters — or at least all that should matter — is the degree you receive upon graduating, not how long it takes to get it.


Nick Sestanovich can be reached at [email protected] or @Nsestanovich on Twitter.